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Thatch Roofs and Lapas

Legal Requirements

Many properties have Lapa constructions on the property. Whether you have a thatch roof house or a thatch lapa on your property, both need to comply with the SANS 10400 Part T Fire Safety regulations.  The rules and regulations regarding any thatch-roofed structure are extremely strict as this is, regardless of the size, a fire hazard.


For any thatch-roofed structure, even a structure as small as a lapa, the requirements are as follows:

  • building plans need to be approved
  • a rational assessment by a Fire Safety Consultant must be obtained
  • where the roof area is less 20sqm, and which is free-standing and not attached to any other building, the building shall not be erected closer than 1 meter from any boundary, and not within 4.2 meters of any building.
  • where the roof area is greater than 300sqm the structure shall not be erected closer than 4.5 meters from any boundary wall and not within 4.2 meters from any building.  Should these requirements not be met, the structure shall be provided with additional fire protection that are acceptable in relation to the actual roofing that is used, and retreated and maintained at the intervals as indicated by the manufacturer of such systems.
  • All buildings and lapas with thatched roofs need to have a lightning conductor installed by competent persons in accordance with the relevant requirements of SANS.  A lightning conductor can be anything from 9 meters to 30 meters high, and the size of the thatch structure will determine the height of the lightning conductor, the requirements relating to lighting conductors:
    • the lightning conductor needs to be tested annually and a certificate is to be issued
    • the reason for annual testing is that the lightning conductor may lose their effectiveness because of corrosion, weather-related damage, mechanical damage and damage from lightning strikes
    • depending on the damage, the lightning conductor might even need to be replaced
    • the lightning conductor certificate is only valid for one year


When selling a property with a thatched roof, the Seller needs to be informed that a lightning certificate needs to be obtained prior to registration.  Not only does this hold serious legal implications if not met, but also insurance consequences.